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Decatur man denies charges he enslaved, strangled and whipped girlfriend




DECATUR — Derek M. Leonard is pleading not guilty to charges he treated his girlfriend like a slave, handing out vicious belt whippings and strangulation as punishment and controlling every aspect of her tortured life.

A sworn affidavit said the 21-year-old woman finally had enough after suffering her latest round of violence and made her allegations to police about what was going on. Leonard, 23, was arrested Dec. 4.

Free after posting a $1,000 bond on bail of $10,000 — prosecutors had asked for $50,000 — Leonard appeared in Macon County Circuit Court on Feb. 19. Represented by defense attorney Philip Tibbs, he entered not guilty pleas on charges of aggravated domestic battery involving strangulation, aggravated domestic battery and a further count of unlawful restraint.

Leonard waived a preliminary hearing on the charges and Judge Rodney Forbes assigned the case to his own trial list and scheduled a pretrial hearing for April 23.

The sworn affidavit said the girlfriend had dated Leonard for 10 months and he had assumed total control of her life. “(She) advised that he required her to take photographs of herself clocking into work, clocking out of work and record herself walking home from work,” said Police Officer Kimberly Chaney.

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“(She) advised that he takes her to cash her paycheck and holds onto her money, requiring her to ask for money when she needs it.”

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Chaney quotes the girlfriend as saying that, on the day before Leonard was arrested, he had lashed her more than 10 times with a belt “because she wanted to pick up her paycheck from work and he told her it could wait until the next day,” Chaney said.

The officer continued: “(She) showed officers numerous bruising on her legs, back, arms, shoulders. She had bruising all over her body that appeared to be in different stages of healing as they were different colors.”

Chaney was also shown a bite wound Leonard was accused of inflicting on his girlfriend’s right shoulder and she had bruising on her face she said was caused by belt buckle strikes. She claimed she was struck in the head after flinching away because the belt blows to her body were so painful.

And on Dec. 2 the girlfriend said she was strangled to the point where she almost blacked out, her body went limp and her eyes began to roll back into her head.

Chaney quotes Leonard as admitting that he has “been physical” with his girlfriend but said he offered no other details. “Derek admitted that he needs anger management and assistance with his addiction to alcohol,” Chaney added.

The officer said a check of Macon County Circuit Court files showed that Leonard has no previous convictions for “domestic battery-related offenses.”

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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